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2007: The Year in Review

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The end of the year is a special time in which editors and writers around the world recycle content from the previous twelve months and repackage it as new content. We at GoKunming are not above this practice, so here's our look at the people and events that shaped 2007 in Kunming and Yunnan.

January
Internet access in Kunming and around Asia was severely limited after a late-December earthquake in Taiwan severed some rather important undersea cables to North America. Normal or near-normal access was quickly restored to China's coast and elsewhere around Asia, but more remote places such as Yunnan province were forced to wait until February for normal internet access to be restored.

Kunming native Jin Feibao hiked to the South Pole, only to discover that it was already an American city.

Yunnan First People's Provincial Hospital and the Xishan Public Security Bureau opened China's first drunk tank for foreigners, citing increased numbers of 'drunken incidents' involving foreigners.

February
The popular American pseudo-Chinese restaurant chain PF Chang's Chinese Bistro launched a special 'Flavors of Yunnan' menu that ran from Chinese New Year to September at more than 130 locations across the US. Although it was difficult to not be critical of the menu's lack of authenticity, it seemed to be a promising indicator that the unique dishes and cooking styles found in Yunnan were beginning to be noticed by the outside world.

A down-on-his-luck businessman in Fumin County near Kunming got his 15 minutes of fame for painting a mountain green in order to improve the mountain's fengshui with the hope of improving his personal fortunes as well. The mountain which had been quarried for 20 years was covered with nearly half a billion yuan's worth of bright green paint over 45 days.

Yunnan province was singled out for praise by UK medical journal The Lancet for its efforts in combating the spread of HIV/AIDS. In terms of HIV/AIDS infections, Yunnan has been one of the more harder-hit regions of China and is where China's first case of HIV/AIDS was reported in 1985. The Lancet said that Yunnan "has shown strong support for implementation and advocacy of harm-reduction strategies that reduce HIV transmission in its many drug users".

March
A great place for hiking, biking and navel gazing, the sleepy town of Dali inched a little bit closer to Kunming with the completion of the new Kunming-Dali highway. The new road reduced travel time between Kunming and Dali to around four hours – not much longer than the total time required for someone living in downtown Kunming to fly to Dali.

Following in the footsteps of the town of Zhongdian in northwest Yunnan – which was officially renamed 'Shangri-la', the city of Simao was renamed Pu'er with the hope of cashing in on the boom in interest in pu'er tea. Unfortunately, Pu'er was hit by a major earthquake a few months later.

April
The Mekong River, which flows out of China via Yunnan, was drying up in its lower reaches in Southeast Asia. Water levels as low as one meter on the border of Laos and Thailand made river travel or transport all but impossible for much of April. The low levels were attributed to a combination of an intense dry season and the completion of two dams – Manwan and Dachaoshan – on the Lancang River, as the Mekong is known in Yunnan.

Yunfest 2007, perhaps the best documentary festival in China, was cancelled under a shroud of rumor and confusion. GoKunming hopes to see the festival back in Kunming in 2009.

Kunming's re-emergence as the center of Asia made progress as India began rebuilding its section of the Stilwell Road and overland transport agreements between China and Vietnam streamlined the movement of goods and people between Yunnan and Vietnam. Border wars with India in 1962 and Vietnam in 1979 led to long periods of icy relations between the two countries and China. With the return of relative political and economic stability to most of East Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia, Yunnan appears poised to become a hub for commerce, politics and transport between the three dynamic regions.

May
Kunming hosted China's 7th National Disabled Games, a major test for the city, which is keen to host more international events. In general the games were well-managed and inspiring to disabled and non-disabled attendees alike. One of the more popular events was blind soccer (football) - check out this video clip to see how they do it.

June
June was both a good and bad month for Kunming's image as the Kunming Fair totaled US$150 million in completed deals and Kunming was named China's 'Solar City' as well as one of China's 'rising urban stars'. Slightly less positive, nearby Dianchi Lake made an appearance in domestic and international media as its waters turned bright green from an algae outbreak.

July
Kunming became one of the first Chinese cities with a 'drive-thru' McDonald's. The old town of Lijiang began charging an 80 yuan entry fee as UNESCO warned China that some of its World heritage sites in Yunnan were designated for 'examination' due to concerns regarding development and tourism (Lijiang) and damming (Three Parallel Rivers Protected Areas).

Yunnan's rainy season inflicted heavy damage provincewide as dozens of people died and thousands were displaced by heavy rains and flooding.

August
Former Kunming Deputy Mayor Hu Xing was sentenced to life in prison for bribery after being extradited from Singapore to Kunming. Hu, who allegedly took more than 40 million yuan in bribes while in office, was in charge of Kunming's roads and highways for several years, which may partially explain the dismal state of Kunming traffic.

Food prices in Yunnan were rising quickly, causing concern for workers and business owners around the province, and pu'er tea was leading all luxury goods in China in terms of price growth.

September
Kunming held its first no-car day in which only buses and taxes were allowed to operate within the city center. The city later became China's first city with regular no-car days - although the no-car day on December 29 was apparently forgotten.

Starbucks announced that it would begin sourcing coffee beans from Yunnan amid rumors that Starbucks outlets would come to challenge Kunming's homegrown café scene in 2008.

October
China's rock godfather Cui Jian headlined the Lijiang Snow Mountain Music Festival just weeks before the first Kunming Outdoor Music Festival was held in Anning.

Yunnan announced major changes to its resident registration system, during 2008 it will be seen what impact the changes will have upon rural migrants moving to cities around the province.

November
While much of northwestern Yunnan was snowed under, Kunming hosted its first-ever international film festival as well as China's largest travel expo, and it was announced that Kunming would be the site of the first war games between the Chinese and Indian armies.

December
Kunming was hit by a major gasoline shortage which disrupted life for many city residents and companies. GoKunming readers selected their favorite places to eat, drink and play in Kunming in the Best of Kunming 2007 awards.

And as a nice year-end gesture, the Chinese government officially scrapped its plans to dam Tiger Leaping Gorge... more about that next year.

The GoKunming team thanks everyone who visited the site in 2007 and wishes all of its readers a happy, healthy and bountiful 2008.

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